Support for children whose parents have cancer
Young children may not be emotionally developed enough to express their real feelings in words. Or, they may not feel comfortable about being in an unfamiliar group situation. Young children often express their feelings through play or their mood rather than in words, and they are often spontaneous in the way they do this. They may not be able to tap into how they are feeling on a specific occasion.
Older children or young teenagers may be more articulate but less forthcoming. Being a teenager can be a time of emotional ups and downs. Teenagers can feel confused and unsure about themselves. This can make the way they deal with a parent’s illness very different from that of a younger child. Their reactions are likely to be more intense than an adult's. It is very important that they have the time to grieve about the illness and be included in what
The teenage years are also a time to establish independence. This can make it difficult for adolescents to express their feelings and look to other people for support. They may become distant from their family and talk to their friends instead. Or they may keep it all to themselves. They may feel very uncomfortable about expressing their feelings in a group situation. They may become anxious, angry, moody, depressed or pretend that they are coping very well when actually inside they are feeling very scared and lonely.
The National Cancer Institute in America has a great booklet called When your parent has cancer - a guide for teens, which gives tips and ideas on how to talk about cancer and how it may affect the family.
Sometimes children of all ages can regress when they are feeling stressed. This means that they can behave as if they were younger.